A Safe & Healthy New Year: A Dozen Tips for your Family

When the clock stuck midnight on New Year’s Eve, you likely wished for a safe and healthy year ahead for your family. Here are 12 ways you can make that wish come true.

Use family dinner to introduce new, healthy foods.

Take stock in nutrition. Good nutrition is vital to your family’s physical and mental well-being. Serve bone-builders such as calcium-fortified orange juice, low-fat dairy products and whole-grain, fortified breads and cereals. Include fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. Set a good example for your children by enjoying healthy fare yourself. If you have a picky eater, review your child’s diet with your pediatrician and ask about any special recommendations.

Instill good eating habits. Help your children avoid future weight and health problems by practicing good eating habits. Enjoy dinner together as a family and use it as an opportunity to try new, healthy foods. Limit the amount and size of snacks. Make the family room a no-eating zone to discourage the mindless munching that often goes with TV watching.

Make fitness fun. Push your baby in a stroller along a scenic route or run behind a jogging stroller. Swing, slide and climb along with your kids at the playground. Plan family outings that involve physical activity, like hiking, sledding, biking around the neighborhood, or just playing ball in the backyard.

Prevent illness. Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Teach your children to wash their hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds each time. Keep everyone’s immune system in tip-top shape by making sure you all eat healthy, exercise regularly and get enough sleep.

Inspect the house. Take a child’s-eye view of your home and remove booby traps that await your curious toddler or preschooler. Keep in mind small objects and sharp edges. Stash knives out of reach. Lock up poisons, block stairways and secure slippery mats.

Have routines. Children thrive when they know what to expect. Nighttime routines that involve baths, stories, and songs before sleep can make bedtime go more smoothly. A morning routine can also help you get out the door faster and with less fuss.

Practice safety on wheels. Always buckle up—not only seat belts but the chin straps of sports helmets, too. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure that child safety seats are installed correctly. When you buy a new car seat, send the registration card to the manufacturer so you will be notified of any problems or recalls. And always wear helmets during high-impact activities, such as bicycling and in-line skating. Helmets must be worn snug and level on the head for best protection.

Clear the air. Studies suggest that indoor air pollution from tobacco increases your children’s risk of ear infections, chest infections and even sudden infant death syndrome. And keep in mind that the best predictor of whether your children will grow up to be smokers is whether or not you smoke.

Learn how to save a life. Learning the Heimlich maneuver and CPR will prepare you for many of life’s emergencies, from helping a choking child to rescuing a baby who’s stopped breathing. Your local chapter of the American Red Cross can refer you to classes. Also make sure everyone who is old enough knows your address and how to call 9-1-1.

Have an emergency plan. Draw up a fire escape route from your house and review it, step by step, with your family. Practice it until your family’s response becomes automatic. Remember to designate at least two exit routes from every room as well as a meeting place outside your home. Install smoke detectors in every bedroom and on each floor of your home and test their batteries every month.

Create rituals. Saturday-morning strolls to the bagel shop. Quiet stories before bedtime. A ritual can be as elaborate as an annual trip to celebrate summer’s end or as simple and sweet as a note tucked in a lunchbox each day. No matter how big or small, sharing special traditions will strengthen your bonds.

Enjoy what you have. It’s easy to overlook what’s going well in your life when focusing on the daily routines of work, child care and housekeeping. Improve your own outlook and teach your children to appreciate life by regularly taking stock of what you feel grateful for. Be sure to express your appreciation of each other!

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